Friday, July 30th: A False Start
In the early morning hours of July 30th, I was awake for several hours with contractions that were much more uncomfortable than the Braxton-Hicks I had been having for months. I laid awake in the darkness wondering if this was the day we were going to meet our baby. I was much calmer than I thought I’d be! I managed to fall back asleep for awhile, and when I got up around 8 am the contractions were still coming, though they weren’t getting any stronger or closer together. I was planning to go to school that day to have my principal sign my maternity leave paperwork (just in the nick of time, it turns out!), but I was nervous about going alone, just in case things got rolling. So I called my mom and she came over to drive me around and keep me company for the day. We got my paperwork signed, and then, since school is right around the corner from my midwife’s office, decided to stop in and ask if it was possible for me to get checked and see if I was dilated any. Joan, my midwife, fit me into her schedule and told me I was about 1 centimeter dilated, the same I had been at my appointment 2 weeks prior. But based on the symptoms I described, she guessed it wouldn’t be long until I went into labor. I alerted our doula, Nicole, that I was having some indicators that things might be getting started, and said I would keep her updated throughout the day. After my appointment, my mom and I went back to my house and tried to keep busy. She cleaned our windows and steam cleaned our floors, I did some laundry and general tidying up. I felt strongly like I wanted everything to be in order before the baby came. All afternoon, the contractions hung around, but still weren’t getting any more frequent or intense. My mom went home late in the afternoon, and Brian came home from work. Since I wasn’t feeling great, he took me out for dinner. I really wanted pancakes, so we decided to go to a little diner we like, where I had scrambled eggs and pancakes that I couldn’t finish because my contractions were so uncomfortable. We thought we might be having a baby that night! When we got home, I decided to take a warm bath, something I had been doing almost nightly for several months. While I was relaxing in the tub, I noticed the contractions were much less frequent and less uncomfortable. By the time I got out, they were nearly gone altogether. I felt disappointed – I was ready! So we turned in for the night, knowing that things could change in the coming hours.
Saturday, July 31st: Let’s Get This Show on the Road
I slept great on Friday night, and woke up Saturday feeling disappointingly normal. I paced around the house not doing much of anything but obsessing over having a baby. I didn’t really have an appetite, and around lunchtime I was forcing myself to eat a yogurt when I started noticing some signs of impending labor, namely, I began contracting again and lost my mucus plug (which was about as pleasant as it sounds). Instead of getting all excited again, I opted to just wait and see what happened before calling anyone. I channel-flipped and Googled for most of the afternoon while Brian worked in the yard, popping in for periodic updates. As the hours went by I noticed increasing contractions and a new, crampy feeling low in my belly. In case this was really it, Brian opted to take a nap, which was the smartest decision he could have made and I am sorry I didn’t join him! By 6:30 pm, I was watching 50 First Dates for the one thousandth time and contracting regularly and with greater intensity. I texted Nicole again to let her know what was going on, and she thought it sounded promising. We were supposed to go to the county fair that night, which I had really been looking forward to, but decided it was too far away should things progress quickly. But since I was restless and dying to get out of the house, we took Ceasar for a walk. It was a gorgeous night – the perfect evening for a leisurely stroll. It was not too hot and not too cool, the summer bugs were out in full concert, and every so often I had to stop on the side of the road, doubled over with a contraction. We ate a light supper when we got back and tried to find ways to pass the time. This proved difficult – the anticipation was killing us! At 6:30 pm, my contractions had been 7 – 9 minutes apart, and as the evening wore on, they progressed to 5 -7 minutes apart, at which point I could still talk through them. I walked around the house, bounced on my birth ball, and occupied myself putting last minute items in my hospital bag. We called both sets of parents to let them know what was going on, and I was in regular communication with Nicole about the status of my labor.
Sunday, August 1st: This is it!
Brian started really timing my contractions (before we had just had a casual eye on the clock) and by 12:30 am they were 3 – 5 minutes apart and I was not having fun anymore. They stopped me in my tracks and I could no longer speak through them. For some reason I remember thinking “they have to get worse than this before we’ll go to the hospital. These aren’t too bad.” After consulting with Nicole, we decided it was time to call my midwife’s office and see whether they wanted me to head to the hospital. Dr. H, the OB who works with Joan, was on-call that weekend, and she told me to head right over to the hospital and she would call and let them know I was coming. I could not believe it was time. In a daze, we gathered up our bags, closed up the house and said good-bye to the pets. I cried as we made our way out to the car in the quiet night air. I was so overcome that when I came back to our home it would be with our baby and our lives would be changed forever.
The ride to the hospital was not at all comfortable. I hated having to sit, strapped in my seat while the contractions grew in intensity. I have to give Brian credit – he drove steadily and carefully despite my moaning and distress. I was SO happy to get to hospital just after 1 am. Nicole met us there, but since they would only allow one person with me in the triage area, she waited just across the hall while they evaluated me. I had bought myself a really pretty and comfortable gown that I intended to labor in, but with everything going on, it didn’t even occur to me to put it on. They handed me a hospital gown and I swear, if it had been a shark bite suit, I would have put it on anyway. You truly do not care about anything but your labor! Martha, the other midwife from my practice, was at the hospital that night and she examined me and pronounced me 3 centimeters – “a very good place to start,” she said. She told us she would have to consult with Dr. H on the phone before making a decision about whether to admit me at this point or not. I was in shock that NOT admitting me was even an option – I couldn’t imagine getting back in that car and driving home, then having to drive back again. In fact I told Brian that I wasn’t leaving the hospital and they couldn’t make me. As we waited, I could hear Martha on the phone with the doctor at the desk. “She’s 3 centimeters…yes, 39 weeks 4 days. Yeah, she’s pretty uncomfortable.” Luckily for me, when Martha returned, she said they were going to keep me and get me a room immediately. I will always remember her saying “let’s have a baby!”
Brian, Nicole and I settled into my room, which was spacious and comfy. The staff was very attentive to my birth plan – they did not at any point ask me if I wanted pain meds, they limited the amount of times they were in and out of my room, and they didn’t make me get hooked up to any monitors. About once an hour my nurse would come in with the doppler and check the baby’s heart rate. We turned off all the lights in my room and let my labor do its job. Brian and Nicole supported me in a variety of positions as my contractions became longer, stronger, and closer together. Every time a contraction peaked and I was in a lot of pain, they would remind me to relax and breathe…not to be scared and not to panic, just relax and breathe. It was a strange experience – in between contractions we would converse, move around and get things out of my bags, and then another one would roll over me and it felt like time would stand still while it built and built and built, and then faded away. I had thought I would want to take advantage of the whirlpool tub and/or the shower, but in the throes of labor, these things never even occurred to me. My favorite position for awhile was walking around, then leaning over my tray table when I had a contraction and rocking my hips back and forth.
I had no sense of time throughout the night - I only knew it was passing because the intervals between contractions were getting shorter and shorter. Brian and Nicole were awesome – they kept assuring me they knew I could do it and anticipating my every need. They were the best support team ever and made it possible for me to totally give myself over to the experience. Around dawn, I was draped over the birth ball when the strongest contraction yet hit me and made me lift my head up and say, “I need to push!” My nurse came in sometime between 6:00 and 6:30 am to check me and said I was 7 centimeters – not really dilated enough to push yet. I was in misery at that point – unable to focus on anybody or anything but getting through each contraction and not pushing. I retreated into a surreal, trance-like state. Brian asked me questions that I couldn’t answer because I simply couldn’t think or talk about anything. I remember he asked me if I wanted him to call our parents and give them an update but I couldn’t force my mouth to open up and answer him. I heard Nicole say to him “remember we talked about transition?” and I realized all at once how close I was to having my baby.
6:50 am: I wanted that baby out and I did not hesitate to let everyone know it. No screaming or cursing, just a lot of “get him out, get him out, get him outs!” Suddenly, in the midst of a terrible contraction, my water broke, which was a strange and kind of scary sensation. I was shaking, laying on my left side, and gripping the rails of my bed like a vice. Strangely enough, I think I dozed off in between some of the contractions. I had been up for 24 hours at that point and I was so tired!
After my water broke, my nurse took some measures to me make me and my bed dry again. She removed my hospital gown, leaving me in just my stretchy sports bra and nothing else, and do you think I cared? Nope. Not one iota. I don’t remember this, but Nicole said she thought Brian felt a little weird about me being so naked and pulled a sheet up over me. I just really, really had to push. Around 7:00 am, a flood of medical personnel showed up and I realized this was really about to happen. I have no idea who or how many doctors and nurses were there. I do remember Martha, the midwife, saying that Dr. H was on her way and would be there soon. I did not care. I just wanted to push the baby out, and they let me start. I pushed with my contractions – no one counted to ten or told me when to push like on TV. It was the most intense experience of my life. Brian was up by my head encouraging me, Nicole had one of my legs, and my nurse had the other. I kept saying I couldn’t do it and everyone kept saying, “you’re doing it!” I also kept saying “I want him out!” and someone would always say, “only you can get him out. Come on, push this baby out!” As I got closer and closer to delivering, I was offered a mirror to see him crowning. I declined. They also asked if I wanted to touch his head and I said no, I just want him out! After about 30 minutes of pushing, at 7:35 am, Jake Allen made his entry into the world screaming his indignation at the bright lights and chilly room. The physical relief I felt when he was born was immediate and complete. They put him on my bare chest right away and it was the single most miraculous moment of my entire life. He was so perfect. I couldn’t believe he was here, healthy and beautiful, and that I had given birth to him. I can’t tell you what else was going on in the room with all those people because we were too absorbed taking in our son. He was quiet and wide-eyed, just looking at us. My nurse was rubbing him off on my chest, and they eventually brought the warming lamp over to warm him up. I loved that they were in no hurry to take him from me. We laid under the lamp together with Brian right there and Nicole taking pictures of those precious first moments. Jake breastfed immediately and he was quite good at it. We were euphoric. The high I had from giving birth naturally was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced in my life. I felt awesome – an hour after he was born I was up and about, eating, chatting with visitors and enjoying my new son. I ended up with one tiny little tear that required a couple of stitches, but other than that, I felt like I could run a marathon (and had the appetite of someone who had!).
It was the most amazing day of our lives and it was perfect. I wouldn’t change a single thing about Jake’s arrival, and yes, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. We are so unbelievably blessed.
In triage around 1:30 am.
The moment they put Jake on my chest.
Nice to meet you :)
Nursing for the first time.
First family photo!
All cleaned up and burrito-ed.
With our phenomenal doula Nicole.
Resting under the heat lamp.
It must be exhausting being born!
And tomorrow he turns ONE.